How to Create a Nerve Cell Model Kids Can Make

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Turn colored pipe cleaners into a cell model.
Turn colored pipe cleaners into a cell model. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Getting a grip on neuroscience may not seem like child's play, but a few different colored pipe cleaners are all you need to make your own neuron or nerve cell model that incorporates all the vital features of these cells. Children as young as 3rd graders can complete this project with a little assistance, so set your budding biologists to work on this science project without delay.

Things You'll Need

  • Red pipe cleaner
  • Blue pipe cleaner
  • 3 white pipe cleaners
  • Black pipe cleaner
  • Green pipe cleaner

Roll the red pipe cleaner into a ball. This will represent the cell's body.

Push the blue pipe cleaner through the center of the body until the ball sits in the middle of blue pipe cleaner. Bend the two halves of the blue pipe cleaner together till they meet, then twist them together to form a single fat "tail" attached to the body. This represents the cell's axon.

Cut three white pipe cleaners in half and push each piece through the body of the cell (the red ball) until it emerges out the other side of the body. These short white spikes or tendrils represent the cell's dendrites.

Loosely wind a black pipe cleaner around the axon. The blue of the axon should still be visible. This represent the myelin sheath in your model. Trim any excess pipe cleaner trailing past the end of the axon.

Cut a green pipe cleaner in three and wrap one piece around the end of the axon, opposite the body. This represents the cell's synaptic terminal.

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